Brief History of the Quantified Self Movement

People who use technology such as apps to keep track everything from air quality to their heart rate are often referred to as “Quantified Selfers” …or QSers for short. The information gathered by QSers is usually used to help them improve their health and/or well-being through the use of data. This makes the Quantified Self Movement not only beneficial in the behavior change community, but also for every individual who wants a better quality of life.

How Did the Movement Begin?

The Quantified Self Movement began in 2007 by Wired Magazine editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly. It’s purpose was to promote an interest in self-tracking amongst users and developers. Mr. Wolf and Mr. Kelly now help maintain and moderate the Quantified Self website.

What is the Quantified Self Movement?

You may not have heard of the term ‘Quantified Self Movement’ as it goes by other aliases in the media such as ‘auto-analytics’, ‘self-tracking’, ‘life-logging’, and ‘life-hacking’. The movement uses many methodologies to achieve its goals.

The major methodologies are:

  • data collection
  • visualization
  • cross-referencing
  • discovery of correlations

(These are just the primary methods used based on the most widely utilized platforms of data-collection.)

Sharing Information

QSers are quick to share information about the tools they’ve used to life-log, as well as any tips they’ve gleaned and information about personal projects. Information is shared through various forums and blogs online as well as conferences where users can meet face-to-face.

The face-to-face meetings are called “Quantified Self Show and Tell Meetings”. These meetings are held all over the world, but the first ones began in the San Francisco Bay Area (of which I’ve attended many). The Quantified Self Conferences are working meetings for tool makers and users interested in the Quantified Self Movement.

Methods of Data Collection

Recent advancements in mobile technology has made it a lot easier to store, record, and track data. Most Quantified Selfers use handheld devices such as mobile phones or tablets to self-track. The data is normally stored in downloadable software or an app’s database (often in the cloud).

Currently some popular programs for self-tracking are:

  • Nike+ FuelBand
  • Fitbit
  • Body Media FIT
  • WakeMate
  • Zeo
  • Withings Body Scale

There are hundreds of devices and apps now used for a variety of different tracking purposes. Some of these innovations record activity data, some take biometric measurements… the innovation around what can be recorded is quickly expanding. The advances in recording and sharing health data on mobile devices has made mHealth extremely popular. As a zealot of this space I’m going to try and keep an updated list of wellness innovation related to tracking here.